At the heart of any vocation to the priesthood should be the desire to bring Jesus to the people. Our ministry and ordination puts us in the unique and privileged position of bringing the Good Shepherd to His flock, of facilitating that profound encounter between God and humanity. As priests, there are a variety of ways in which this is accomplished. First and foremost and perhaps most obviously is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when we quite literally give the Eucharistic Lord under the appearance of bread and wine to those hungering for His Presence. We are there as the ministers of mercy in confession and the ones who impart divine life at the font of baptism. Recently, however, I have found one of the most profound experiences of mediating the encounter between the Lord and His people to occur as I carry the Blessed Sacrament, our Eucharistic Lord, in the monstrance through a crowd of people gathered in prayer at a camp or conference.
The idea of the Eucharistic “walk around” at a Catholic event is not something new or novel. Essentially it is a procession, but instead of just walking with the Lord it is the Lord that comes to each person. It has been going on for years at Steubenville conferences or other occasions where this incredible encounter with the Lord is highlighted and fostered. My first experience of this as a priest was during Camp Veritas at both the Lakota and Mount St. Mary locations. Three years ago, I was speaking at a youth conference at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., and the walk around was the closing event the final night. Last month at New York Catholic Youth Day in White Plains, the day finished by facilitating this encounter with our Lord in the Eucharist for the nearly 1,100 young people who attended. The experience of bringing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to His people has been incredibly powerful for me as I look at the faces of the ones who are having this heart to heart time with the Lord. At Camp Veritas, there is a three- to four-second period when you stand in front of each camper so they can have a personal moment with Jesus. At larger gatherings, although the one-on-one experience cannot happen, it is still powerful as you walk slowly through the crowd. What an enormous gift to bring the Lord to His people. Many of those you pass will reach out to touch the cope or humeral veil as they experience for themselves the Gospel passage where the woman with the hemorrhage reaches out to touch the robe of Jesus, believing that if she can but touch his garment she will be healed.
It is perhaps easy for those of us who are “cradle Catholics” to take for granted what an enormous gift the Eucharist is. We believe that in any Catholic church we enter the Lord is waiting for us in the tabernacle, that He desires this encounter with us more than we desire the encounter with Him, not because God is in need of it, but because He knows how desperately we are in need of Him. It is often in the quiet of a church before the tabernacle or the experience of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during a camp or conference that the stirring of a vocation to the priesthood first begins to be realized. There are men in seminary right now who will speak about how it was during a walk around at camp that they first felt the Lord drawing them to serve. Over the last decade, many studies show that there is a direct link between Eucharistic adoration and vocations. This should not be surprising. The priesthood exists for the Eucharist and so it makes sense that time spent with the Lord inspires the call in the heart to follow Him.